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WONDER-WORKING BY HYPNOTISM         105
King Carol of Rumania and * King Victor Emanuel of Italy, among others, honoured him with invitations, while Signor Benito Mussolini received him several times at the Chigi Palace; and that instead of shirking investigation he has usually courted it. I, who have seen several of his feats done by half a dozen unknown fakirs in different parts of India and Africa, find no difficulty in believing them possible; whereas, knowing the man, I know, also, that he actually does possess the powers which he claims. It is only when he stoops, as unfortunately he now does, to satisfy the popular craze for fortune-telling and charms, that he is indulging in an activity which I am unable to endorse. Perhaps he is not to blame, however. "The world has forced me to commercialize my powers, to become an artiste when I wanted to be a scientist," he sadly confessed to me once over the tea-table. Nevertheless, I admire him greatly, as being the first Oriental fakir with such extraordinary powers who has refused to clothe around them a dress of mystifying verbiage or religious irrelevancies. He himself wants to see the truth about the wonders of the fakirs separated from the nonsense with which it has been traditionally embroidered. He has a refreshingly sane and modern attitude towards his own achievements and the principles which underlie them, an attitude unique among that order of medieval-minded, unprogressive, irrational and mystery-loving human beings called fakirs. In short, he seeks to replace superstition by science.
Before one can adequately understand his feats one needs to understand the man, and the best way to do that is by a short sketch of his life. I shall set that down here; just as he told it me. But first meet him.
You may expect the lank emaciated figure of an ascetic. Instead, picture a short, distinguished-looking man with black hair and olive skin, grave, peaceful, bearded face, who sometimes wears the Arab burnous over his head, at others an ordinary European soft felt hat. He is slightly under medium height. He slips out of his Arab robes into a well-cut European tailored suit and finds himself equally at home in both. I lis piercing, beautiful eyes are exceptionally interesting because the white irises are strongly noticeable and lend depth and mystery to the jet-black pupils. His manner is always soft and gentle, while he is as courteous and as polished as all the better Egyptians' invariably are. He murmurs his sentences so quietly and so